Hypothetically. This could never happen, but what if it could?
What if you were told it was inevitable. An affair was going to happen in your marriage. There was nothing you could do about it. However, you had a choice. You could choose which side of the affair you were going to be on, the one who had the affair, or the one who did not have the affair. Which side of the affair would you choose to be on?
From where I stand now, the answer is unquestionably clear to me. Knowing what I know today about affairs, I would choose to be the one who did not have the affair in a heartbeat. I would not have been able to see this, or understand this while I was still on my own journey.
At that time, I was so wrapped up in my own pain (which seemed completely fair and justifiable given what had happened), that I was unable to even begin to see my husband, Brian’s, pain.
Today I understand that both people are hurting, not just the betrayed. Sure I dealt with emotional pain that was excruciating. And what’s hard about being the betrayed person is that you had no part in the decision of something that hurt you so deeply. You were not in control.
Now let’s look at the side of the one who had the affair.
Sure it may appear that they had the fun and excitement of an affair, and to be sure they did get some pleasure in the moment or they wouldn’t have done it.
Eating large amounts of high fat foods that lack in nutrition might be fun temporarily too, but then you have to deal with the consequences, the weight gain, the sickness and the ill health that goes with being malnourished. And how do you feel about yourself when you engage in this behavior with a short-term fix and long-term consequences? - Generally, not good.
Brian, during the 2.5 years it took us to heal, had to look into my eyes every day, the eyes of the woman that he loved, and see my pain, and know that he caused that pain.
Brian, the unfaithful one, had to look at himself in the mirror and face himself. He faced the facts; that it was not just I he failed. He failed himself, his children, his friends, his church, his community, and his family. He had to face himself, knowing he had failed his own ideals of who he thought he was, what he wanted his life to stand for, the legacy that he wanted to leave behind.
The one who does not have the affair, on the other hand, will never have to live with this. They can hold their head high, knowing that they have lived their life without regrets. Can you put a price on the feeling you have knowing that you have kept your promises, been authentic, and lived with integrity?
Which Side Of The Affair Would You Choose To Be On ... or... Can you put a price on living life without regrets?
The hardest thing Brian had to face in this whole journey was his children. Having to look his children in the eyes, and let them know, he was moving out because he had an affair is one of the hardest things he ever did. Looking back, I would never trade my spot to have had to be this one.
Then, for those who wish to restore their marriages comes the long haul of healing. Over and over they must face the questions of the biggest screw up in their lives, they experience the anger and the sadness of the betrayed partner, and really, if the marriage is to be healed the perpetrator must turn around and become the healer, all this while not knowing if the marriage can or will ever be healed, while not knowing whether it ever can or will be behind them, whether they can ever be genuinely forgiven, and not knowing in the end if the betrayed partner will actually stay in the marriage after all their efforts.
Those who have affairs often deal with the disrespect of teenage or grown-up children. For months if Brian wished to tell our oldest teenager anything, he had to say it through me, because her outwardly displayed anger towards him was so strong, that if he told her to do anything she would immediately do the opposite just to spite him. For months whenever, he entered our home, our teenage daughter left, without speaking to him. She would not even be in the house when he was there. It took even longer to win back the respect of his children, than it took to win back my respect. This, consequence is not something the faithful spouse faces.
As the betrayed, generally speaking, if we choose to, we can get support and even sympathy, and almost every book written on the topic of affairs is written to the betrayed. But for the unfaithful, they are often shunned. They are considered, “the bad guy, the loser, the one people disdain.” They often are much more misunderstood and isolated than the one who has been betrayed.
And what about those who leave their marriages for their affair partners? They face the inevitable pain of divorce, and the huge blow to their finances. (Both partners face this.)
But inevitably the pain they experienced in their first marriage resurfaces in the new relationship, in most cases, there are even more problems because the relationship has begun on a foundation of lies and deceptions. No sooner does the new relationship begin, and the affair partner distrusts them, because it hits them, they cheated on their first spouse, now perhaps they’ll cheat on me.
Often people contact us, telling us that they left their marriage for their “soul mate” and now they’ve discovered their “soul mate” is not their “soul mate” after all. Surprise! Surprise!
Instead it was the chemical high of an affair that impaired their judgment. Now they’re stuck with the disrespect of their children, a huge financial loss (from the divorce), the loss of friends and their reputation, and they’re still stuck with the same set of problems they had in their first marriage. The common denominator in both relationships is themselves. They haven’t faced their own demons.
One such man I know of who left his wife and children for the affair-partner took his own life two years later. His affair partner came home and found him dead on her floor.
His original wife believes that one day he woke up and realized what he’d done, what he’d lost, who he’d become and that he couldn’t bear it. This of course is an extreme case, but how many live with haunting regret?
Another man I know who was married 4 times - each time to a younger wife. Where is he today? 80 years old, broke and alone with his regrets.
There may still be some who enjoyed their affairs, are not remorseful, whose spouses stay with them and who don’t experience some of the negative fall out described above, but I myself would not be happy to be one of these people.
Yes, if you give me a choice, I’d rather be the one who didn’t have an affair. I would not trade places with a person who’s had an affair for any amount of money in the world. Respect, and the many long-term rewards that come with living your life above the line, to me are worth much more than any short-term high.
It’s not to say those who’ve had affairs can’t turn things around. It’s never too late to do the right thing, but there is always a price to pay.
Time has got a little bill – get wise while yet you may,
For the debit sides increasing in a most alarming way;
The things you had no right to do, the things you should have done,
They’re all put down; it’s up to you to pay for every one.
So eat, drink and be merry, have a good time if you will,
But God help you when the time comes, and you
Foot the bill.
- Robert Service
There is an unscrupulous man out there making millions by promoting affairs today, with the deceptive tagline, “Life is short, have an affair.”
I say ….
“Life is Short – Leave a Legacy!”
“Life is Short – Make Yours Count!”
“Life is Short – Love Your Spouse!”
“Life is Short – Do the Right Thing!”
“Life is Short – Be a Hero!”
©Copyright 2010 Anne and Brian Bercht. All rights reserved.